LeBron James' historic performance on Thursday -- the first 45-15-5 game in the playoffs since Wilt in '64 -- will certainly receive starred status in the King James Canon. It's right up there with his incredible game against the Pistons in 2007, his Game 6 against the Celtics in 2010 and his Game 1 against the Magic in 2009. You'll note that those were all also playoff games. Despite the prevailing narrative that a hand sans rings, LeBron has been a powerful force in the playoffs over his career, averaging 28.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 109 games.
Another place where LeBron has been a beast is on the international stage. He figures to be one of the dozen players representing Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics beginning in late July. He starred for the American team that won gold in Beijing in 2008, and had a small role on the bronze medal team in 2004 in Athens. (A serious argument as to why Team USA won only bronze in Athens is that coach Larry Brown relied too little on LeBron, who had just completed his rookie NBA season.)
In Beijing, LeBron hit double digits in every game, peaking at 18 points three times (including against powerful Spain in group play and host China). Team USA didn't lose a single match, and lore indicates that beyond the camaraderie of the American squad itself, the seeds of the current incarnation of the Miami Heat -- starring LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- were sown.
We've never seen LeBron as anything but great. There were no real early career struggles, or learning curves. As soon as he hit the NBA -- straight out of high school in Akron -- he was a legit star, an amazing scorer with court vision. He had to grow into his defense (he's now on the league's best on that end) and his jumper took some time. But from Day 1 he had the ability to take over games and power through on-court adversity.
These days, the most impressive thing about LeBron is how the entire game of basketball is within his reach. He can defend big men superbly. He can defend guards well. He can score in the post, as he did regularly on Thursday. He can score in the mid-range. He's not afraid to fire up long jumpers. He drives. He delivers extraordinary passes -- he'd be the best point guard on most teams in the NBA purely from a passing standpoint. He's a killer rebounder. (He had 15 on Thursday. He helped keep Boston to zero offensive rebounds in the first half.)
The power within LeBron is incredible versatility. In a sport that often overrates the ability to do everything well to the detriment of singular scorers or elite defenders, LeBron actually handles everything extraordinarily well. Even if he never ends up as a consensus Greatest Of All-Time candidate, it may be written that he is the most complete player we've ever seen.
Next week in our Power Within series, sponsored by Jeep Wrangler, we'll look at two more USA Basketball stars.